Sunday, May 20, 2018

Arrange the Extracts in Their Order of Time

In a hobby like Sherlockiana, you can say you've been interested in it for more than a decade, and still be considered relatively new.  Because there's just so much out there! 

I swear, for every book I read, I add two more to my To Be Read list.  There are so many avenues to do deep dives into that can take months, if not years, before you could feel well-versed enough to offer an opinion on some topics. 

This probably isn't true for everyone, but I have an compulsion to know as much as I can about a topic that I am currently interested in.  And the most recent episode of I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere made me come face-to-face with the mountain of Sherlockian research that I find interesting, but daunts me the most:


Episode 144 of IHOSE was a great interview with Vincent Wright, a deeply invested chronologist.  I got to meet Vincent all-to-briefly in Dayton earlier this year, and after listening to his interview this week just reinforced my feeling of "Hey, I need to get to know this guy better!" that I had after the Dayton Symposium. 

(Side note, Vincent graciously offered to be a speaker at Holmes in the Heartland, but we already had a full slate of speakers.  Talk about an embarrassment of riches!  Next year maybe....?)

Thinking about chronology is inescapable.  After reading the Canon over and over again for more than a decade, I've developed a few half-baked ideas of the chronological outline of theses stories, and as The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street followed Holmes and Watson from St. Bart's to Von Bork, I had to hitch my wagon to a given chronology as the outline for my book. 

At last month's Parallel Case of St. Louis meeting, we debated the date that William Baring-Gould had assigned to The Cardboard Box.  There are plenty of chronologies out there, and my guess is that most of us are familiar with at least a few of them.  Some of them are better than others, but none of them are slam dunks.  So it's easy for folks like me to sit on the sidelines and pick at their weak spots. 

But, as Scott, Burt and Vincent talked about the ins and outs of chronology, It became very clear to me just how much I didn't know.  And to be a good chronologist, you've got to know A LOT.

Chronology has always been interesting to me, but once I go over that cliff, I know I'm never coming back. 

Do you trust Watson's dating implicitly?  If so, how do you account for Watson dating Wisteria Lodge at 1892?  If that date is suspect, what else can be called into question?

Do you take into account the publication history of Watson's stories as Holmes references them?  Or was Holmes privy to Watson's writings before they were published in The Strand?

What's more important in dating the stories, the weather reports from London or train schedules? 

Can we trust that Holmes was EXACTLY sixty years old during His Last Bow?

How many times was Watson married?

Do we think that there was only one page boy at Baker Street, or was it a position filled by numerous people whom might not all have been named Billy?

See, this is a VERY slippery slope.  And these are just the questions I came up with as I sat down to write this post.  Who knows how far down the rabbit hole I could go if I allowed myself to.  As mentioned above, I'm a compulsive.  That's why I purposely keep chronology at arm's length.  Because I don't know if I'm ready to delve into that much madness.


Monday, May 14, 2018

It Would Be Time For Me To Announce

The day has finally arrived!  Registration for the first ever Holmes in the Heartland opened today and we want YOU to join us in St. Louis on August 10-12!

I've posted about the planning of the conference plenty, but let me just say, that the people putting this thing together are some of the most top notch Sherlockians out there.  Our goal is to create a conference that highlights the new St. Louis Sherlockian Research Collection at the St. Louis Public Library while also creating an event that can bring Sherlockians of all stripes together for some scholarship and socialization. 

Friday night will celebrate our city of St. Louis with The Blues Carbuncle tour of the National Blues Museum and have some 221BBQ at Sugarfire Smokehouse.

Saturday is a day full of Sherlockian scholarship with talks from:
Tim Johnson
Bill Cochran
Tassy Hayden
Don Hobbs
Brad Keefauver
Bill Mason
Mary Schroeder
The Black Knights Fighting Group
And a surprise guest
with dinner following at historic Favazza's Italian restaurant.

Sunday will find us touring the Becker Medical Library to learn about Victorian medicine and capping the weekend off with an afternoon tea at the London Tea Room.

We know that people's travel schedules or budgets allow for different levels of participation, so this weekend is an a la carte menu.  You can choose one, two, or all three days to register for.  The Parallel Case of St. Louis is an open and friendly group of Sherlockians, and we are hoping you'll join us in St. Louis this August for the first of what will hopefully be a long running conference.

Come at once if convenient—if inconvenient come all the same.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Interesting Interviews: Carlina De La Cova

The beginning of May is one of the busiest times for any educator.  So I want to take a moment to especially thank this month's interviewee, Dr. Carline de la Cova, for taking time to answer my questions.  Carlina is such an interesting and pleasant Sherlockian, that I just couldn't wait for more people to hear from her!  She is an associate professor of anthropology and Undergraduate Director at the University of South Carolina, where she also teaches a course on the forensics of Sherlock Holmes.  Carlina contributed to "About Sixty" and "About Being a Sherlockian" and spoke at last year's Nerve and Knowledge II symposium in Indiana.

And that's just Carlina's resume as a Sherlockian on paper!  I got to meet her in Indiana last year and was enamored by how gregarious and intelligent she was.  She was in high demand at the after party following her talk, and once you've met Carlina, it's easy to see why.  Carlina is active on Twitter and she is one of the friendliest Sherlockians on there.  And that's saying something!  Carlina is a true hidden gem of Sherlockiana, and hopefully some of you will get to know her a little better after this interview...

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

There’s been much debate about the word “Sherlockian”. Traditionally, it has been linked to individuals that actively engage in research or produce scholarship about the Canon. However, as times have changed and new interpretations of Sherlock Holmes have emerged, this term has become more inclusive to those that not only research the Canon, but enjoy all adaptations and stories tied to Sherlock Holmes.

I call myself a Sherlockian as I not only enjoy the different mediums Sherlock Holmes has been translated and re-created in (television, film, radio, comic books, pastiches), but I also actively engage in Sherlockian research. However, I do not believe the term “Sherlockian” should be a term of exclusion. Long story short, I have my own personal definition of the term, but I am pretty flexible about how others use the term. At the end of the day, all Sherlockians love Sherlock Holmes.

How did you become a Sherlockian?

Like many, I met Sherlock Holmes in grade school. I began seriously reading the stories in high school. I was fortunate that my introduction to Sherlock Holmes coincided with the then ongoing Granada series. However, as I indicated in Chris Redmond’s About Being a Sherlockian, Holmes’ keen observational skills, his belief system, and his definition of justice inspired me to become a Sherlockian. A day does not pass that I do not use Holmes’ methods in my work. The forensic anthropologist must have keen observational skills to identify a skeletonized decedent. Furthermore, they must be ever conscious of justice. Our work provides justice for the voiceless and allows us to unsilence those that have been intentionally, or historically, silenced.

What is your favorite canonical story?

My absolute favorite Sherlock Holmes story is the Hound of the Baskervilles, followed by the Sussex Vampire. HOUN is so rich in culture, early anthropological and forensic thought, and archaeology. Every time I read it, I always find something new. From Mortimer’s famous words, “I covet your skull,” to the rich archaeological landscapes of the tors on Dartmoor. HOUN even plays on traditional folklore, with the black dog embodying the hellhound that leaves death in its path. Furthermore, the story is rich with references to heritable criminality and criminal anthropology.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

All things! Seriously! I love podcasts, blogs, comics, literary criticism, historical deconstruction, and collecting. Anything that is Sherlock Holmes interests me! If I had to pick one though, it would be literary criticism and Sherlockian scholarship. I’m also quite keen on works that tie Sherlock Holmes to the historical period, events, and peoples that he was contemporary with.

What things do you like to research related to Sherlock Holmes?

As an anthropologist, I’m particularly interested in concepts of early anthropological theory, archaeology, criminal anthropology, and forensic anthropology in the Canon. I have no doubt Holmes was an anthropologist. To be a man of science during his time period, and to comprehend crime and criminal behavior, meant that one had to have knowledge of basic contemporaneous anthropological theory and methods (some of which have fallen out of favor today, but that’s another blog for another time).

Are you currently working on any Sherlockian projects?

I am currently balancing Sherlockian projects with my academic publications. At the moment I am working on translating my Nerve and Knowledge II presentation on anthropology into an article for the Baker Street Journal. I also hope to write a book in the future that will serve as a companion to my Sherlock Holmes class that I teach at the University of South Carolina.

What Sherlockian things do you like to read other than the Canon?

In the past I’ve enjoyed Nicholas Meyer, Laurie R. King, and other Holmes centered pastiches. I also enjoy a good Sherlockian comic book or graphic novel. Most importantly, however, I love reading Sherlockian scholarship, especially biographies and reference-related books that tie Sherlock Holmes to newspapers, important historical figures, and actual methodologies.

Where do you see Sherlockiana in 5 or 10 years from now?

Sherlock Holmes has walked amongst us for over 160 years. I do not see that changing anytime soon. He has had and will continue to have numerous resurgences in popularity. I think even after we have burnt out our mortal coils Sherlock Holmes will still remain, inspiring future generations. Due to this, I believe Sherlockiana will continue to thrive in the next five to ten years. Oh wouldn’t it be neat if it moved into the virtual world, like virtual reality? I could wrap my head around that….a VR landscape of the Hound of the Baskervilles!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

I Would Call Your Attention Very Particularly to Two Points

Friday night found me in the movie theater, watching Avengers: Infinity War.  I grew up with Marvel comics and the Infinity Gauntlet story happened when I was 11, so this movie had my money as soon as it was announced.  After the movie was over, I could easily say that I loved it, although I had some questions

So, this being a Sherlockian blog, you're probably waiting for me to talk about Downey, Cumberbatch and the amount of screen time their goatees spent together. 

Yeah, that was fun.  But when I woke up the next morning, I didn't find myself wanting to jump right back into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  I was ready for Baker Street.  Infinity War was such a massive movie that I wanted to retreat to where the world's biggest villain could be a mathematics professor or a dog with phosphorous on its snout.

So I read this week's entry for The Irregular Canonical Book Club: Abbey Grange.  This isn't one of the stories that most people would put on a Sherlockian Mount Rushmore, but I forgot how great of a story this is!  Getting to see Holmes wrestle with himself and ultimately trusting his gut over his intellect is fantastic.  And when he returns to the scene of the crime, Watson's description of Holmes' investigation is right up there with Boscombe Valley or Sign of Four. 

So, although it may feel like there are 60 super heroes in Infinity War, I prefer to stick with the 60 canonical tales.

And.... point number two:


Sorry, I couldn't start off this week's post with fanboy raving.  But now you're in for it.

Oh man, I can't tell you how awesome it was!  I've posted before about how IHOSE is my favorite podcast, so I was more than a little nervous about this.  But there was no need for me to be.  Hosts Scott Monty and Burt Wolder navigated me through the interview like the true pros that they are. 

We covered my beginnings as a Sherlockian, scion societies in St. Louis, teaching Sherlock Holmes to my fifth graders, the upcoming Holmes in the Heartland conference, The Beacon Society, The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street, and so much more.  I would go back and listen to it again, but hearing my own voice on a recording is like nails on a chalkboard.  I don't know how my students listen to that all day long!

But don't let my voice deter you.  Check out IHOSE episode 142 and all of the other 141 episodes.  I Hear of Sherlock is easily one of the most important Sherlockian products out there today, and it is perfect for anyone interested in our hobby.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

All Good Comradeship and Friendship

In last week's post, I mentioned briefly that the planning committee for Holmes in the Heartland met to finalize our plans for the weekend. 

Well, those plans are now online!

It was coincidental that the finalized plans went up on the same weekend that 221B Con was happening in Atlanta.  But the excitement of putting our weekend out and getting to see so many Sherlockians having fun down south made me really appreciate this hobby. 

If you look at the schedule for Holmes in the Heartland in the link above, you might notice we left the nights pretty open.  There is a dinner on both Friday and Saturday, but they will end at a decent time so that you could either call it a night, or just be getting your night started.

Friday night's dinner will be a laid back affair at Sugarfire Smokehouse, after a tour next door at The National Blues Museum.  The Blues Museum will have a live band playing that night, so it's set up perfectly for a hang out spot for Friday's participants.

Saturday's dinner will be at Favazza's, a popular Italian restaurant in The Hill neighborhood.  We've booked a room for that night with bar service.  The plan for that night is a standard convention dinner with some great food, but we also wanted to allow for socialization time on Saturday as well.  So when dinner's over, the bar will stay open, and we will bust out some Sherlockian board games for anyone interested.  Solve a mystery, or just hang out!

One of the members of the Holmes in the Heartland planning committee is also a regular 221B Con-goer, and she swears that the socialization is an important part of a Sherlockian convention.  I've only been to two official Sherlockian events myself, Nerve and Knowledge in Indiana and Holmes, Doyle and Friends in Ohio.  While the programming at both of those were excellent, what I wholeheartedly agree with her, as I really enjoyed was hanging out with other Sherlockians at those two events.

And that's what we are hoping for in August.  I'm not promising the full on craziness of 221B Con in St. Louis on August 10-12, but I am promising some built in time for socializing.  So drag some old friends with you, and get ready to meet some new ones.  We're ready to meet you!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

I Am A Sherlockian

Well, if you've been around Sherlockian social media over the past few days, I think you know what this week's blog will be about:

Who is and who isn't a Sherlockian.

The debate started when one Sherlockian said she didn't think people could call themselves fans of Sherlock Holmes if they hadn't read the Canon.  [Edit: As pointed out in the comments, it actually started from a comment in a Facebook group and the above Sherlockian shared her opinion]  As you can imagine, many people social media handled the view of someone who disagrees with them in a mature and pleasant matter.

Just kidding.  Lots of people over-reacted.

But this opinion did open up a dialogue with some good points on both sides and led to the beautiful #IAmASherlockian hashtag on Twitter.

One prominent Sherlockian has said a few times that the philatelic society is not going to be very tolerant of people who show up and insist on talking about milk bottle tops.  After I looked up what 'philatelic' meant (stamp collecting), the analogy made more sense if you are describing a typical Sherlockian society.

(Quick side note: last time I waded into these waters about societies, all Sherlockian societies were lumped together, and the Baker Street Irregulars were seen as a governing body of local clubs.  That is not the case and I only speak for MY view on Sherlockian clubs.)

Sherlockian societies are literary societies that typically talk about a different canonical story at each meeting.  If you are a member of such a group, I firmly believe that you should be familiar with the story being discussed at that group's meeting.  It may be the very first canonical story you've ever read, or you're reading it for the umpteenth time for the meeting, but to be part of a group carries certain expectations.

I say, if you are willing to participate in what the group is doing, come on in!  For those of you just starting out, The John H. Watson Society shared a great sentiment from Joy Clarkson that I feel all Sherlockians should have:

And if reading the stories isn't your thing, then a traditional Sherlockian society probably isn't for you.  My hobby is reading Sherlock Holmes stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle.  If your hobby is fan fiction, Granada tweetalongs, or pastiche, I'm happy we have tangential interests.  We are all interested in an imaginary character and his imaginary best friend solving imaginary crimes.  Let's all take a step back and stop taking things so seriously!

A rule of thumb I try to live by has always been, don't be a dick.  If you and I aren't interested in the same thing, that doesn't allow you to dismiss me or me to dismiss you.  You call yourself what you want, and I will call myself what I want.  Quite frankly, I don't really care what other people call themselves; it doesn't have a big impact on my life. 

Wow, I'm getting awfully preachy here.  In case you are wondering, other good rules to live by include:

Crying is acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon.
No home is complete without a proper toolbox.
There has never been a sadness that can't be cured by breakfast food.

This morning, I met with four other local Sherlockians today to finalize plans for Holmes in the Heartland.  All five of us came to the Canon from different entry points and have been there for varying amounts of time.  As I looked around the table, I was thankful to be spending time with such great folks.  I'm sure some of us disagree on plenty outside of the world of Sherlockiana, and probably some within it.  Does it matter if they prefer Cumberbatch to Paget or Brett to fan fiction?  Nope, they're good people and a true benefit to our Sherlockian hobby.

Ashley Polasek summed things up perfectly yesterday, so I'm going to end this week's post with her very wise words:

I don’t usually wade into Sherlockian skirmishes. But the current furor relates to subjects at the heart of my many years of scholarship, so, for what it’s worth, here is why, when it comes to defining the label “Sherlockian”, I am, to coin a term, “Sherlockumenical”.

There is only one Sherlock Holmes: all of them. I emerged as a Sherlockian after fevered consumption of the complete Canon, moving hungrily into adaptations immediately after. I have a terminal degree in the study of... the adaptations. My research systematically builds the argument that iterations of the Holmes character are contextual reinterpretations of a source work, making them all part of a coherent, readable whole. Every part is a component of that ever-expanding, ever-more complex whole.

If you call yourself a Sherlockian—a word that is, itself, defined by the non-essentialist contextualization of a reader to a text—but deny the function of adaptive contextualization to the definition of that text, you are fundamentally misunderstanding literary studies, adaptation studies, and participatory culture studies.

In short, there is not a real Holmes and a series of other, lesser, secondary versions. There is only one Holmes. It encompasses and, indeed, supports broad, mutating, evolving, even mutually exclusive readings.

If you are a fan of one or more of those readings, you are a Sherlockian.

And if you understand this, you, too, are Sherlockumenical.


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Interesting Interviews: Brad Keefauver

This month's Interesting Interview is Brad Keefauver, a name familiar to any Sherlockian that's been around for any amount of time. Brad has been blogging about all things Sherlockian (and whatever non-Sherlockian things he can twist to become Sherlockian) on his site, Sherlock Peoria for about as long as the internet has been around.

Throughout the nineties, Brad was writing books and publishing journals that are chock full of goodness. More recently, he has started a new podcast, "Sherlock Holmes is Real," which is a new and inventive take on the history of Sherlock Holmes' place in the world. The second season of Sherlock Holmes is Real started in March and is well worth checking out.

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

Someone who loves Sherlock Holmes. And, I suppose, we must be polite and allow that they self-identify as a Sherlockian, just in case they’re a Holmesian, Sherlockholmesian, Watsonian, or “just someone who loves Sherlock Holmes.”

How did you become a Sherlockian?

I saw Sherlock Holmes in a rowboat  trying to fight the Loch Ness monster. I was in junior high and only saw the preview to The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes without getting to see the actual movie for years. The spark was struck in that moment.

What is your favorite canonical story?

“The Illustrious Client.” Can’t even say why.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

The things Watson doesn’t tell us, but are there all the same. The “here is what really happened” genre of Sherlockian scholarship, extrapolating from the evidence we’re given. When done right, you always get a “Why didn’t I see that before?” moment.

What things do you like to research related to Sherlock Holmes?

Historical nooks and crannies. Timelines. Single moments where something was happening to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson while other things were happening elsewhere in the world at exactly that point in time. (Haven’t actually done that last one yet, but it’s on my list. And, actually, Vincent W. Wright would be better at it than me.)

What is one of your favorite posts or topics you've ever covered on Sherlock Peoria?

My favorite posts are always the ones where I get to express something that someone else can’t come out and say or is having a hard time finding words for. There are some topics in Sherlockian culture that we rarely communicate about in print, and I enjoy getting them on the public record. The most gratifying moment in blogging is when someone else tells you that you expressed what they had always thought perfectly. It’s like you got an instant of telepathy in a way, and a good contact with one other person is the best thing in life, really.

How would you describe "Sherlock Holmes is Real" to someone who's never heard it before?

“Sherlock Holmes is Real” is a fictional investigation into Sherlockian history without quality control or standards, with a kind of Mulder and Scully set of hosts, and episodes that can pack a lot of confusing detail into less than twenty minutes. Kind a a next level of “playing the game” that hasn’t quite figured itself out yet. And will hopefully improve as it does figure itself out.

Where did your inspiration come from for a conspiracy theory based podcast?

I had spent a year trying to figure out what kind of podcast I’d enjoy doing, and the I listened to “The Black Tapes” podcast. Their style of ongoing investigation into a supernatural world seemed like something that could work with my imaginary view of the Sherlockian world as a place of conspiracies and secret connections. The real facts out there don’t take much of a push to seem like over-imaginative fiction sometimes.

What Sherlockian things do you like to read other than the Canon?

A really good novel with a Sherlock Holmes tie-in. It’s so hard to find Sherlock done well, so it seems like the most enjoyable things are the almost-Sherlocks. The last three I enjoyed featured female leads: a client, a sister, and a great-great-great-grand-daughter, so I think the gender-shift shakes me out of comparing it to Doyle enough to relax and enjoy it. If a novel tries to say “This is the real Sherlock Holmes!” then it has to match the mental image of Holmes I’ve built over decades, and at this point, that’s an extremely hard task. BBC Sherlock fan fiction hits the mark more often than Doyle-based pastiche for me due to that.

Where do you see Sherlockiana in 5 or 10 years from now?

We’re going to see a lot of talented writers who cut their teeth with on-line prose entering the commercial markets, many of them with new Sherlock Holmes stories to tell. We’re going to see more variations on Sherlock Holmes across all media, too, as those little seeds called “AUs” grow out into the mainstream. The things we see in the years ahead aren’t going to come from the Sherlockian venues who like matters exactly the way they are. They’re going to come from directions we weren’t expecting at all. And Sherlockiana will be playing off those new ideas, both groaning and exalting in the new, as we always do. Oh, yes . . . and the women are going to finish taking over. Maybe not in five or ten years, but it’s coming. (Except in St. Louis, of course, when a fairly young fellow is doing a fine job, and will hopefully continue on with that.)

(Editor's note: It seems like Keefauver's set the bar fairly low for the St. Louis Sherlockians, but I'll take the compliment nonetheless.)